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DEAR READERS: Friday is Valentine's Day. While we celebrate that special day with cards and flowers, remember also to send a message from home to our brave young men and women in the military who, in great numbers, have been deployed to places far away from loved ones.

Regardless of one's personal political beliefs, our troops deserve all the support we can give them. So don't forget to join me in sending a Valentine's Day greeting via www.OperationDearAbby.net.

DEAR ABBY: All too often, ignorant people make racist jokes or comments to me, assuming I won't be offended because we are of the same race (Caucasian). They may be co-workers, classmates or others with whom I must remain civil.

The truth is I am highly offended by any racist comment. I have an African-American brother-in-law and a biracial nephew, both of whom I love dearly. It is because of them that I have become acutely aware of the damage that disparaging remarks "of color" can do. However, each time it happens in my presence, I never know how to respond. Normally I just shrug and say nothing -- then end up feeling terrible about my silence. How would you suggest I respond next time, Abby? -- FEELING UNTRUE TO MYSELF IN MARYLAND

DEAR FEELING UNTRUE: Tell it like it is: I'm sorry you feel the way you do. My brother-in-law is African-American and my nephew is biracial, and what you're saying certainly isn't true of them.

DEAR ABBY: I am an ambitious 22-year-old college senior. Two years ago, I met the man of my dreams. His name is "Wayne" and he's a youth minister. I feel like I've met my life companion.

The problem is that Wayne has a huge fear of commitment. On two separate occasions, we were engaged and about to make the announcement. However, at the last minute Wayne changed his mind and broke off our entire relationship with, "I need time."

Please tell me what to do. I am beginning to have difficulty trusting him with my feelings because he has hurt me twice by bailing out. -- HEARTBROKEN AND CONFUSED IN ALABAMA

DEAR HEARTBROKEN AND CONFUSED: Wayne may be the man of your dreams, but he clearly is not ready to make a lifetime commitment. Give him credit for being honest and all the time he needs, but in the meantime, date others and don't isolate yourself. "Mr. Right" for you may be just around the corner and as ready as you are to settle down.

DEAR ABBY: I have been reading your column for as long as I can remember. Now I'd like to tell you our story.

Close to Christmas, my husband received a telephone message from a woman in Tennessee. She said she had "a special something for him." Of course, all kinds of thoughts raced through our heads. My husband returned her call and was told that she had purchased a box of books several years earlier and had found his baby book among them. She had been trying to contact him ever since. She asked if he would like to have it back.

Apparently, when my husband's family moved years ago, the book had been misplaced. So on his birthday this year, he was reunited with his baby book after 58 years. Our heartfelt thanks to our "Angel in Tennessee" for caring enough to go that extra mile to track down my husband. We are truly grateful. -- HELEN AND MONTY HARMON, PHOENIX

DEAR HELEN AND MONTY: It's nice to be reminded that people are willing to go out of their way to do kind things for strangers. It's the highest form of giving.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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